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Plant receptors with built-in decoys make pathogens betray themselves

Receptors carrying built-in decoys are the latest discovery in the evolutionary battle between plants and pathogens. The decoy domains within the receptor detect pathogens and raise the cell's alarm when there is an infection.

Plants display component parts of their immune system on receptors to trick pathogens into binding with them, which then triggers defence mechanisms. The discovery comes from Professor Jonathan Jones' group at The Sainsbury Laboratory, published in the high-impact journal Cell with a companion paper on a similar discovery from the Deslandes group in Toulouse.

Pathogens target key parts of the plant's defence machinery in their attempt to suppress an immune response. Plants have evolved to display these targets on receptors that are primed to set off their alarm system. When the pathogen binds, the receptor starts the process of shutting down the cell to contain the pathogen and stop it from spreading.

The research from Professor Jones' group shows one way in which plants perceive pathogens. Perception of pathogens is essential for immunity. Plants have very efficient defence mechanisms to stop a pathogen, if they can detect it soon enough. In turn, pathogens are constantly evolving to become stealthier to evade perception by the host. This arms race means both plant and pathogen are constantly under pressure to evolve new ways to outwit each other. Scientists now know these ways include the integration of decoy domains within receptors.

The hypothesis that plants use decoys in this way was put forward last year. Professor Jones' study -- which appears with a companion study led by Laurent Deslandes at CNRS Toulouse -- is the first substantial evidence to support this theory.

Professor Jones hopes the group's discovery could lead to bioengineering new receptors carrying decoys to perceive and trigger a defence to virtually any pathogen. Before the group can make new receptors, they first have to understand their molecular architecture. The next step will be to recreate receptors with new decoys to act as targets for a disease against which a plant has no resistance.

The discovery means scientists can start developing the next generation of tools to equip plants with new defences to pathogens.

Professor Jones said: 'This is a very exciting discovery. It turns out as we survey the genomes of other plants we can see many more such "integrated decoy" domains associated with immune receptors, so we believe this observation will turn out to be of widespread significance. It's a great thrill to be involved in such important and interesting work. I am very grateful for the team of creative and dynamic students and postdocs in my lab whose dedication enabled these new insights.'


Story source: Norwich Bioscience Institute news release via EurekAlert, 21 May 2015

Journal Reference: Panagiotis F. Sarris, Zane Duxbury, Sung Un Huh, Yan Ma, Cécile Segonzac, Jan Sklenar, Paul Derbyshire, Volkan Cevik, Ghanasyam Rallapalli, Simon B. Saucet, Lennart Wirthmueller, Frank L.H. Menke, Kee Hoon Sohn, Jonathan D.G. Jones. A Plant Immune Receptor Detects Pathogen Effectors that Target WRKY Transcription Factors.Cell, 2015; 161 (5): 1089 DOI: 10.1016/j.cell.2015.04.024



1 person has had something to say so far

Hi Caroline,
Interesting article, I've always been fascinated by the brambles in my garden, the dock, the rose bay willow herb and thistles growing in the rubbish and coal dust, even in the pile of soot from our chimney sweeping and nothing attacks them, so healthy no sign of fungus, disease, bugs or anything .
Meanwhile my potatoes, & carrots attract every kind of disease, and cabbages don't last long enough to harvest them.
There's a lot of work to be done in this field, if only the incompetents at EPSRC, Innovate UK and others who are supposed to be funding innovation had the brains to put money where it could be used for real innovation instead of the non-starters I see in the latest list of Innovate UK funded projects.
Anyone can check the excel spreadsheet carefully concealed at:
There­'s some classics with no chance of any commercial success, no feedback about where the money has gone, or even a discription of the purpose of the project. It's a scandalous waste of public money but no one cares.
Posted on 31/05/15 20:51.

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